by lisa horak
Broach, owner of Just Ducky Originals, believes theres a difference
in the way men and women run their businesses. For Sallie, who manufactures
classic childrens clothing, success is more about producing a
timeless, high-end product in a family-friendly environment and less
about the financial bottom line.
has come to this conclusion over the past 25 years of owning her business
and learning exactly what her niche is in the marketplace. Moreover,
she has also learned how to make the business work not only for herself
but also for the women across the country who sew, assemble, and sell
her designs. For all involved, flexibility is the name of the game.
Employees who have the freedom to balance both work and family are bound
to stick around a little longer and work a little harder, benefiting
both their businesses and families.
began Just Ducky Originals in 1980 when she and another woman, both
teachers at the time, decided it was time for a change. We both
loved fabric, and although we had no kids at the time we started sewing
childrens clothes. I took them over to my sister in Charlotte
who had an 18-month-old, and she showed them to her friends and we started
taking orders to make custom clothes, says Sallie.
that is how Just Ducky has operated ever since. Heres how it works.
First, Sallie designs a line of 50-70 pieces of clothing and then makes
roughly 40 sets of samples. She then ships the trunks, or
sets of samples, to a network of 275 women all over the country who
hold home shows to introduce Just Ducky clothing to an ever-expanding
clientele. Then the fun really begins. Customers get to customize the
basic garment by choosing the fabric, embroidery, and trim from a smorgasbord
of seasonal options. The orders come back to Sallie to be hand-made
at her factory in Alexander, N.C. The samples get sent on to another
hostess in another town. Eventually all the samples return to Sallie
and are sold at Just Duckys retail shop on Charlotte Street in
Asheville or at their second location in Waynesville.
has learned the ins and outs of running a business without any formal
training. She grew up in Atlanta, majored in music, and was a teacher
for many years. Initially I was so naïve, but maybe that
was good because I was fearless. I didnt know what not to do.
And I was very fortunate to have had a very supportive spouse who encouraged
me to keep it going when we werent making a lot of money. His
salary also made it possible to not focus solely on the bottom line.
I really like what we do, and that is my primary motivation, Sallie
her business to where it is now has been a long process. When
we started out we tried selling the clothes to some stores in Asheville,
but we quickly realized that to sell store-to-store we would have to
wholesale our products. If we sold them ourselves, we could retail,
which we needed to do to have some sort of salary. We also realized
early on that without a factory we couldnt produce high volumes
of clothing. Thats why the home show formula works so well, because
we can fill specific orders in stead of trying to mass-produce,
believes a man would have run Just Ducky completely differently. For
one thing, a man may have moved the business off-site a lot sooner.
But Sallie wanted to be with her kids. There were lots of years
where I kept the business in my home and had cutting tables in my attic
alongside a playpen for my kids. About ten years ago when it started
taking over the living room and I realized I needed to keep my sanity,
we moved the business out of our home, she says.
has also led by example. Right now she has primarily a staff of women
who, like her, want to be home with their kids and still earn an income.
There is, incidentally, one male employee who is a cutter,
says Sallie, but needless to say, he is also our jack of all trades,
doing many repairs, etc. Right now Just Ducky has 25 factory employees
and about 25 home seamstresses. For the latter and for the women who
have the trunk shows to sell the garments, the key is that they can
do it on their own time, a priceless perk in the job world.
formula is clearly working. Like the roots of a tree, her clothes travel
far and wide, reaching new audiences who favor Just Duckys clean,
simple lines, smocking, and tasteful touches. The clothes also resonate
with an older generation that remembers when all clothing was handmade
with great care, unlike most of todays commercial kids clothes.
our Charlotte Street store we get a lot of traffic from grandparents
who are staying at the nearby Grove Park Inn who want something traditional
for their grandchildren, says Sallie. Young moms are drawn to
the clothes as well, an act of rebellion against the trendy, precocious
clothes children wear today, dressing like teenagers even before they
her own daughters now 23 and 17 years old, Sallie looks forward to someday
dressing her own grandchildren in the clothes she creates.
Till then, however, life for Sallie Broach remains Just Ducky.
lives in south Asheville with her husband and two daughters, Molly and
Isabel. In her spare time she hikes, makes beaded silverware, knits,
volunteers in classrooms, leads a Brownie troop, and dreams of writing